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UK faced with EU-US biotechnology dilemma post-Brexit

The question of whether the UK will open its doors to GMOs after Brexit has become more pertinent after EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told MEPs on Tuesday (26 November) that in order to secure a trade agreement, the UK would have to agree to maintain a ‘level playing field’ and not undercut EU regulation.

Barnier said that if a new UK government sought to diverge from EU regulatory standards that would weaken environmental standards there will never be a free trade agreement, MEPs at a meeting in the European Parliament revealed.

The discussion over science-based policymaking in the EU, in general, has been heating up in recent years, with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) front and centre of the debate.

Concerns have been raised particularly regarding the unknown impact of the release of GMOs into the environment and the food system, with critics citing a lack of adequate and sufficient risk assessment.


Boris Johnson struggles with questions on trade deals and trust

Boris Johnson could not say Friday how many trade deals his government is ready to conclude after Brexit.

“We’ve got talks underway with many countries,” Johnson said in an LBC Radio interview ahead of the U.K.’s upcoming general election. “I can’t give the answer as to how many deals are actually formalized.”

Pressed further, the prime minister said: “There are a number that are virtually ready to go,” and added: “I imagine we have about a dozen that we’re currently working on.”

He named India, China, Australia and New Zealand as countries that the U.K. is in discussions with over future agreements.


EU should adopt German standards on medical cannabis, campaigners say

Germany’s regulatory approach to medical cannabis is good practice and should be replicated across Europe, according to newly-born European Medicinal Cannabis Association (EUMCA).

The recently established lobby group is taking its first steps in the Brussels bubble, advocating for an EU-wide regulatory framework on medical marijuana.

While the market for medical cannabis is already well developed in some EU member states, only EU-wide standards can ensure patients have the same across Europe.

Different legislation across EU countries on prescribing cannabis-based medicines can hinder patients’ access to their treatment when they travel abroad, EUMCA said.

“Our main priority is informing national and EU institutions about the opportunity that this treatment is offering,” said Sita Schubert, secretary general of EUMCA.

Lack of clinical trials is a major reason why doctors are cautious about the drug. But according to Schubert, health actors and lawmakers are also often simply not familiar with medical marijuana.

“The use of cannabis for medical purposes was forbidden for so many years due to strong national laws on narcotics that there was no opportunity of gaining experience with cannabis,” she told EURACTIV.



Middle East

Six European countries join Iran sanctions-busting mechanism

Paris, London and Berlin on Saturday welcomed six new European countries to the INSTEX barter mechanism, which is designed to circumvent US sanctions against trade with Iran by avoiding use of the dollar.

“As founding shareholders of the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), France, Germany and the United Kingdom warmly welcome the decision taken by the governments of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, to join INSTEX as shareholders,” the three said in a joint statement.

The Paris-based INSTEX functions as a clearing house allowing Iran to continue to sell oil and import other products or services in exchange.

The system has not yet enabled any transactions.

[The Times of Israel]